Most people who know me, know that I love events. I think they’re fun. I know that events get a bad rap. You can raise so much more with major gifts work. Events are inefficient, time consuming, ya-dah-ya-dah-ya-dah. I know. I get it. And it isn’t that I disagree. I agree. Completely.
It’s just that I think the benefits of events are under-sold by those same folks who vociferously tout their disadvantages.
I worked once for a wonderful social service organization in Northeast Georgia that for decades received large amounts of support from state and federal grants (still does, in fact). But at the beginning of the last recession, both the state and federal governments pretty dramatically cut the organization’s funding.
For many years, the organization had focused all of its energies on developing its exceptional programs and had in many ways neglected its community relations. Suddenly faced with grant cuts, it needed community support in a significant way. It had not kept in touch with its early, founding donors and had not developed strong relationships with new ones. The Board decided to have an event. Early requests for sponsorship support were disappointing. One company’s response was typical, “How come, if you’ve been serving the community for 23 years, we’ve never heard of you before?”
Not promising as far as beginnings of sponsorship campaigns go.
The organization needed to re-introduce itself to the community. We decided to hold a Corporate Breakfast. We managed to get a restaurant that had a heart for the work we were doing to donate a continental breakfast. We invited as many company CEO’s, VPs, and other decision-makers as we could bring to the table. Our board members called and invited to get people to attend. We promised (and kept our promise) not to ask for money, to keep it short, and let people go in time to get to the office bright and early. We held an early breakfast meeting. Our board offered a very carefully scripted presentation. A couple of welcomes and a couple of introductions with a few of them sharing why they were involved with the organization and why they cared. A very brief minute or two of who we are and we took a moment to explain why we had operated so quietly. We gave them a small overview of our upcoming event and made a request for an opportunity to follow up with them to talk about opportunities for them to be involved—no obligation, of course, just to find out more. Almost all of them were willing to hear more and many became involved.
Our board members personally inviting people to that very short breakfast briefing made a huge difference. It opened doors for us. We were fortunate to have a restaurant donate the food, but even if we had had to pay for it, it would have been well worth it to have had a few minutes to make our pitch and make the connections between our board members and the leaders in the community who ultimately made the decisions about their companies’ participation in our event.
As we followed up with them after that event, many of those businesses present at that breakfast did get involved in our event. Not only that, several got involved in other ways as well. That breakfast was the beginning of a relationship with those businesses. (It bears repeating: there are upsides to events if you follow up on them appropriately). For us, the breakfast became the entrée that opened the door.
Need some help jump starting a sponsorship campaign, introducing your agency to the community, try it or call us, we help organizations get their corporate campaigns off the ground.
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